Americans Get Props for "Walking the Energy Walk"

U.S. carbon emissions are down 9 percent and expected to continue falling

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

According to energy guru Lester Brown, Americans are finally “walking the walk” when it comes to energy conservation—no small words coming from an energy expert who’s often critiqued for being overly pessimistic.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Brown reported that the U.S. has realized a “dramatic” 9 percent drop in carbon emissions over the last two years, ending a century of rising carbon emissions. In addition to feeling good about ourselves, he said that this decline puts the U.S. in a position to adopt a leading role in climate action negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

Some will blame this remarkable decline in energy use on the recession or the high costs of fuel, but maybe, just maybe, it’s a sign that Americans are finally adopting more sustainable behavior. This behavioral change—coupled with the advancement of green energy technologies, increased appliance and building efficiency, and the application of carbon-cutting initiatives—could be driving down carbon emissions, according to the latest available figures.

According to Brown, coal and oil use is on the decline, and he expects these dirty fuels to continue to plummet with the advent of even cleaner and more efficient technologies. Just last year, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal consumption dropped 1 percent (amazing, considering our dependence on coal), and overall carbon emissions fell 3 percent. Energy projections for this year, based on eight months of data, show coal use down 10 percent (whoa!), oil use down an additional 5 percent, and overall carbon admissions from all fossil fuels down 9 percent over the last two years.

“Efforts to reduce fossil fuel use and cut carbon emissions are underway at every level of government — national, state and city — and in corporations, utilities and universities,” Brown wrote in Sunday’s Post. “Beyond this, millions of climate-conscious, cost-cutting Americans are altering their lifestyles to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.”

Have you altered your lifestyle to cut back on your carbon footprint or lessen the amount of energy you use? Tell us how in the comments section below.

––Jessie Lucier

On Energy, We’re Finally Walking the Walk (WashPo)